A Facebook campaign has garnered over 1,100* supporters, expat and Bulgarian, to reintroduce the BBC World Service on FM
Issue 31, April 2009
by Anthony Georgieff
Being what it is at the moment, Bulgaria is one of the few European countries outside Russia where there are no BBC World Service FM broadcasts. The reasons are many and complex (see Vagabond No. 29 or visit http://vagabond.bg/?page=fun⊂=7&open_news=1178 but they boil down to the Bulgarian Electronic Media Council, the watchdog supposed to supervise how Bulgarian radio and TV stations adhere to their licences, rejecting the Beeb's permission to broadcast on FM in the Sofia area. The arguments may have been different, but the fact is that Bulgaria followed Russia in banning the World Service from its airwaves.
However, hundreds of expats and Bulgarians who have little knowledge of the inner workings of Bulgarian bureaucracy feel that their legitimate right to English language information has been infringed. Whether you like or dislike the BBC's editorial content, they argue, you are in an EU country where information of the BBC kind must be freely available.
Many Bulgarians also want the BBC back because in its broadcast they found a source of news unparalleled in its objectivity and accurateness. Some add that the BBC World Service was also being used as a freely available TEFL method: what better way to brush up your English than listen to the kind of language being used on the Beeb?
In less than a month, the number of people who joined us in their support of reinstalling the BBC on FM in Sofia soared to over 1,100. As these are both expats and Bulgarians of very varied political and cultural inclinations, background, profession and interest, we thought that we have a legitimate cause to contact the responsible government bodies and urge them to restart the BBC World Service in the Sofia area.
Martin Zaimov, a prominent banker and now deputy chairman of the Sofia City Council, initiated a letter addressed to the Bulgarian Electronic Media Council and the BBC, and copied to the offices of the British and Bulgarian prime ministers and the FCO in London, which will be dispatched shortly.
You, as readers of Vagabond and prospective listeners of the BBC World Service FM in the Sofia area, can continue to voice your support either by emailing us on
or by joining (and asking your friends to join) the Facebook cause.
We are writing to urge you to reverse a recent decision by the Bulgarian Electronic Media Council to take the BBC World Service off the air on FM frequency in Bulgaria.
To justify its decision, the Bulgarian Electronic Media Council, the watchdog body in media regulation, cited the BBC World Service's failure to include Bulgarian language broadcasting on its FM frequency. This in turn had been preconditioned by the BBC's earlier decision to discontinue its Bulgarian Section.
However, we feel that the reason cited by the Electronic Media Council in Bulgaria is but formal. The Electronic Media Council never mentioned anything about serving the public interest in Bulgaria, and we think that with its editorial mix of unbiased information, quality education and intelligent entertainment the BBC does serve the Bulgarian public interest a lot better than many domestic electronic media.
Another important reason for bringing the BBC back to Bulgaria is the increasing number of foreigners settling for business or pleasure in Bulgaria, a fact that has been the direct consequence of Bulgaria's accession to the EU and NATO.
Last but not least, the BBC has been used by many Bulgarians who wish to improve their English language proficiency. In the EU country with the least spread knowledge of foreign languages we feel that a free source of high quality news and entertainment in English can certainly be considered to be in the interest of the general public. Gentlemen,
We herewith urge you to use your bona officia to bring the BBC World Service back on FM in Bulgaria because otherwise Bulgaria will continue to be the only EU country that effectively enforces an air ban on what we consider to be probably the best source of information in the world.
Alexander Kashumov, legal counsel to the Access to Information Programme; Anthony Georgieff, publisher, Vagabond, Bulgaria's English Monthly; Bryan Turner (USA), property sales & marketing director of LS Properties; Christopher Buxton (UK), teacher; Diana Mishkova, associate professor of history, director of the Center for Advanced Studies Sofia; Elizabeth Kostova (USA), writer; Georgi Lozanov, philosopher and media expert; Gergana Jouleva, founder and executive director of Access to Information Programme; Gerry Kelly (USA), director of education and development, Osteocenter Bulgaria; Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies; Ivaylo Ditchev, professor of cultural anthropology; Jerry Furminger (UK), environmentalist; Jim Reynolds (Ireland), director of Odessa Property; John Stancioff, former ambassador to the Court of St. James's; Julian Popov, writer and chairman of the Bulgarian School of Politics; Krassen Stanchev, philosopher and economist, chairman of the Institute for Market Economics; Lincoln Frager (USA), manager of the Cedar Foundation; Lubo Kanov, writer and psychiatrist; Matthew Dobrosevic (USA), country manager of DobroSoft Ltd; Martin Zaimov, deputy chairman of the Sofia City Council; Neri Terzieva, publicist; Pavel Ezekiev, investment professional; Petar Stoyanov, former president of Bulgaria; Philip Dimitrov, university professor and former prime minister; Philip Popoff, artist; Stefan Tafrov, former ambassador to the Court of St. James's; Stoyan Joulev, former ambassador to the United States and former minister; Tania Brisby, entrepreneur; Vassil Chobanov, publicist; Victor Joulev, entrepreneur
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers